Category Archives: Goals

Out Of The Box, Housing and Training

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What does the typical builder/developer tract house have in common with most marathoners today?  If you are a runner you might see yourself in the answer!

Nearly every runner training for a marathon follows some sort of plan. There are hundreds of well intended training plans published by very reputable sources available to the runner. Typically these plans total about 16 weeks in training, prescribe how many miles to run on each given day, may prescribe how fast or slow to run without prescribing a time, and will more than likely include at least one 20 mile training run to be completed just before a tapering period before race day. Sound familiar?

My observation is that first time marathoners try these plans and they receive a result, they at least finish their first marathon. Then at some point they think they should try another.  Then there is the next marathon, followed by another, and yet another, etc. Before you know it four or more years have passed, the runner’s marathon performance has likely plateaued by now and they also may believe they have come to know everything there is to know about training for a marathon.  I mean, how many variations of the published training routines are there?  They all pretty much boil down to the same thing, right?

Tract house
Typical suburban tract house

Back to the tract housing scene.  Tract housing typically is designed to be constructed easily, it is aimed at a spectrum of the general marketplace, focuses on a myriad of features (i.e. stainless steel appliances, stone counter tops, etc.), and can be constructed on virtually any vacant parcel of land. Tract houses pay little attention to being unique and by definition, are not designed to meet all of the unique requirements of the individual homeowner.  It only takes less than an hour or two of viewing any HGTV show to realize that every house lacks something for a particular homeowner. Obviously there are many tract homes work very well for many people, but in order to satisfy a broad market segment, they loose some level of individualization.

Thus it is with the “Out of the Box” training program.  They do work, but do they work well enough for the widely diverse groups of runners? For all the hours of running, all the hours of other training, all the sacrifices the runner makes during a training period, why do runners SETTLE for only generalized, non-specific training when it comes to the total marathon experience? How can they break away from a plateau and make a significant improvement in their performance?

M-Ext-Lake-dock 5x7-300dpiBack to housing. Architects understand that homeowners, particularly homeowners seeking to construct a new house, can more often attain a better final result that benefits the specific homeowner in many ways than compared to tract housing targeted at the general marketplace.  Pictured is a custom home I designed in Novi, MI for a husband and wife. The husband was from Santa Monica, CA. The wife was from a coastal town in North Carolina. They were seeking a house that would look like it would fit on either coast. They were very pleased with the experience of the design process and the final results. I seriously doubt plans for this house could be found in any selection of a builder’s plan book.

Similarly for runners, especially runners that feel they face a challenging training session or unique race, or result. It could be the runner’s first 5K or the runner’s umpteenth marathon. The best advice to runners is to avoid the “Out of the Box” training program and seek out a qualified running coach who will work closely with the runner to help assure the runner’s success.

With a qualified coach the runner should expect regular feedback to help address the myriad of variations the runner faces during their training period. A good coach , like a good architect will provide personalized advice on not only how to much, far, and fast to run, but also many more topics in order to help assure the runner (or homeowner) achieves their targeted goals. It is nearly impossible to expect any runner to fully abide by the template programs available to them for 117 consecutive days!  How can a predetermined impersonal fixed schedule ever help a runner when the runner feels extra tired, or know when the runner may be over training, and many more variables that come into play during training?

So as an architect with 43 years experience who has successfully designed and constructed private residences for average homeowners, I urge you to at least talk to an architect if you are considering any change to your home or constructing a new house as an essential first step. Start at http://www.aia.org and seek out a local chapter in your area for further assistance.

As a certified running coach with over 50 years of running experience and if you are either in the midst of training or look to start training soon, I urge you to seek out a certified running coach that is as anxious to work with you are with them. Of course I would especially appreciate it if you would contact me. I can be reached at Therunningarchitect@gmail.com and you can also view my coaching services website to learn more too at http://www.therunningarchitect.com

Thank you for taking time to read this post and as always,  Run Happy 🙂

Coach Lee

It’s Official!

It’s official, after being referred to as “Coach” by many of my running friends for years I can now officially call myself “Coach”.   Following several years of comfortable procrastination a series of circumstances over the past several months combined to enable me to become a nationally certified running coach via the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coaching certification program.

rrca-cert-coach-logoThe RRCA is the national running organization that has been promoting the sport of road running and racing since the late 1950’s, about the time that I began to take a curious interest in long distance running. It’s coaching certification process is focused on training coaches to train runners of all types for all types of road races. Coaches that achieve certification can be counted on as having a high level of integrity, knowledge of the sport, and passion to help their runners succeed.

The process to become a RRCA certified coach in a challenging one. It involves committing at least two full days of classroom training, successfully passing a lengthy exam, and becoming certified in CPR and first aid.  You might think so what’s so tough about that?  Well, it begins in finding an available class. That alone is more difficult than it appears as classes are held at various locations across the country and the enrollment is very limited.  I was fortunate in that the RRCA National Convention was scheduled to be held downtown Detroit in Mid-March and the coaching certification class was being offered as a part of the convention. This duel opportunity meant that the fee for the class was higher and the classes would be spread over three days. I justified the higher cost by reasoning that I could avoid any travel cost. The higher cost also meant that this opportunity remained “open” a bit longer than normal and I was able to schedule this class within weeks of the actual class date.

The Class Experience

Approximately 30 candidates enrolled in the class. What surprised me was how far away many came just to attend the class!  Out of the 30 maybe seven were from the Detroit area. The rest came from places like Tuscon, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston, Florida, and even one person from Bombay!  About a third of the class traveled from nearby states such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and one person from neighboring Windsor Ontario.  It was quite a cross section. There were also a few more ladies in the class than men which reflects the national demographics of the sport too.

Coach ClassThanks to the National Convention, we were treated with four very experienced instructors.  Each presented their specialty in various topic areas.  Topic areas covered physiology, psychology,  training theory, running form, nutrition, injuries, business aspects, and even the history of coaching.  There was quite a lot of information to cover and I was glad it was spread out over three days.  Unlike similar classroom scenarios involving the architectural profession, I did not find my mind drifting even once off track from the presentations. We were in a small room, no windows, basic table and chairs, yet I found myself being comfortable and even invigorated with the discussion and presentations.  Before I knew it each long day was over and I was anxiously awaiting to take on the next day.

The Test

The dreaded test. It was made very clear when signing up for this venture that each candidate would be required to take an exam. The exam consist of 100 questions, taken online, and an open book format that must be successfully completed within 30 days,  Also, in order to pass, one needed a score of 85% or better. If not, then it was back to the starting line and repeat the process (and cost) all over again!  So the pressure was on.

Immediately following the course, I spent a week organizing my study book (about 1″ thick of full pages). Yellow sticky tabs were everywhere by the time I was done.  Then came the day I had planned to take the exam. My Saturday afternoon was planned to start, I had made it this far, I needed to continue.  Much like approaching the half way point of any race, time to concentrate and “kick it in”.

The first few questions appeared simple, then I started to ask myself doubting questions. Even though I knew what the answer should be I made it a point to look up and verify the location of each answer in the book.  This became very time consuming. Each block of the exam consisted of 10 questions. After you answered 10 you could save that section and continue. There was the opportunity to re-visit each section and change any answer.

About two hours later I had completed 50 questions!  Half way! Yikes, this was taking much longer than I had planned.  I saved my work and took a nap with the thought that I could finish the last 50 questions on Sunday.  But I could not rest. After about 30 minutes of this anguish, I returned to my desk thinking that if I complete one more section then it would be that much less I would need to complete on Sunday.  Well, one section merged to two, two to three, and before I knew it I only had one more section to go. Done!

Done, but not so sure of certain questions. I was tempted to the the FINAL SUBMIT button but decided to think about it over night. It was late Saturday evening, I was drained from my long run earlier in the day and nearly four hours of questions.  When the final submit button is hit, you receive your results instantly!  I was not mentally prepared for this.  So instead, I printed out the questions and my answers and placed the papers aside until Sunday.

I was able to get a long run in late Sunday morning but it was not a quality run as certain questions from the exam lingered in my mind. Upon looking at my printed answers I discovered two or three that I had obviously incorrectly answered. Then there were another four or five that I was reading too much into the question and did not have confidence in my answers.

I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon dilly-dallying around. I returned to my desk with every intention to hit that dang SUBMIT button.  Well…  I also thought that before I do, I probably should have a glass of wine . . . or two.

Finally, after dinner, I returned to my desk, and like stripping a band-aid off your hairy arm, I hit that SUBMIT button and I swear, my finger no sooner came off the keyboard when a message flashed 95% !  I passed!  In time I will be able to learn the answers to all of the questions.

You’re Almost There!

The worse was over and I truly was almost there, unlike certain points in a race course where well intended supporters think they are helping when in fact they may be hindering your race effort, all I needed to do now was take a 6 hour class to become CPR and First Aid certified.  Fortunately for me I had taken such a class three years ago and knew exactly what to expect.  Regardless, it’s always good to brush up on one’s readiness.

I was able to locate a class very nearby and attend this past Saturday.  Good thing too because it was a cold and rainy day, who wanted to run in this mess.  I simply moved my long run to Sunday.  I had an excellent instructor, learned and re-learned my important items, and glad this part is now complete.

The first thing Monday morning, I sent my CPR/FA credentials to the RRCA and received prompt congratulatory notice and within a short time I will receive my official certificate documenting my achievement of becoming a certified running coach from the Road Runners Club of America!

The Next Steps

I plan to offer my services to the members of the newly formed 501 Running Club (formerly Running Fit 501) and continue being a helpful resource to the members of the club as each of them may see fit to seek my advice.

I also plan to establish my own business as a running coach in the very near future.  I am already well into the process of laying the ground work for my new venture. Stay tune in the coming weeks for more news regarding this venture.  In the meantime, I have NO plans to quit my day job as an architect at OHM Advisors.  I do not foresee my coaching effort as a career change, rather I see it as another opportunity to further explore and share my passion for running with long time runners as well as those who only think they might like to try running someday.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post, please check back for updates, or better yet sign-up to follow by blog and you will receive updates as I post.

Run Happy!

Coach Lee

Expectations

 

SoBoston Fin Line 16 race weekend is nearly here after logging over 600 miles of running, strength training, stretching, and more, ready or not here I come Boston.  Like a football coach having a game plan for the “Big Game”, runners need to have their personal game plan or strategy to assure success in their marathon.

Every marathoner shares at least two common goals for their marathon. The first is to simply get to the starting line healthy and ready to race their best. This is often much more difficult to attain than it sounds, for many runners fail to listen to their bodies during the grueling training period of 16 -20 weeks and thus experience an injury that at a minimum disrupts their training. The second goal is to simply finish the marathon!  This too sounds so simple for anyone who has trained. However, the marathon is a very humbling experience. Over the course of 26 plus miles so many influences are challenging the runner that to simply complete any marathon is a sweet victory.

Then there are the various other goals. Typically runners have a specific finishing time they aim to achieve. Others may run to experience the thrill of it all and could care less about the finish time.  For most runners participating in the Boston Marathon are running Boston as a result of attaining their previous goal, to qualify to run Boston!  One does not simply enter the Boston Marathon, a runner needs to qualify in a previous marathon in order to become eligible to enter!  The result is a field of 30,000 runners who represent the best marathon runners in their respective divisions.

My  expectations for the Boston Marathon are rather basic and focused more on enjoying the overall experience while still running a very respectful race. Short of a last minute freak accident, I should toe the start line in a healthy condition. I also feel confident I can finish the 26 plus mile route. The big question is how long will it take me and how will I do it?  What is my goal time to finish the Boston Marathon?

To answer those questions I needed to compare my experience at Boston 10 years ago to my race prep this year. In 2006 I had a 4:03 marathon time. Up to that point it was my slowest marathon finish time by 30 minutes! I was both disappointed and somewhat embarrassed. So my next goal for this year’s Boston is to finish in at least a sub 4 hour time.  Again, I still feel confident about being able to run a sub 4 hour marathon, but the challenges of the Boston course will not make this an easy goal to reach.

Back in September when I gained entry to this year’s Boston Marathon I had the lofty goal train hard and aim for a 3:40 marathon time. A bit optimistic, but not out of the question. That is until somewhere the middle of this winter.  I realized that real-life obligations also play an important role in one’s marathon training schedule.  Back in the fall I had planned to run much more than my training in 2006.  Actually, when I run my final, very slow paced, 4 mile run tomorrow morning, I will be 3 miles short of my 2006 training miles!

But, this does not mean I am doomed for a 4 hr plus marathon either. I also incorporated several new regimes into my training. Back in January I enrolled in a 7 week course with famed professional sports trainer Kirk Vickers of Triad Performance. Under Kirk’s tutelage  I my core strength improved as did my running form and efficiency.  I sacrificed training miles for training improvement.

Also different from 2006, was my early speed training with the Ann Arbor Track Club. From November through March each Tuesday night, various speed sessions at the University of Michigan’s indoor track was a great way to sharpen my running and conditioning while running with friends too.

Then there is the backbone of all my runs, my running buds with the Running Fit 501 training group out of Novi and Northville. I have been honored to help coach this group of people who enjoy running and running together. Our Wednesday night workouts continued to challenge us all especially during the dark winter Michigan nights. We also do our long runs each Saturday at Kensington Metro Park. This park is packed with Boston like hills so the long runs that incorporated challenging hills also. So simply stated, my training did not include mega miles it did include an overall better quality number of sessions. The results will not be known until some time mid-Monday.

As an obsessed runner who keeps detailed records of all my training for the past 30 years I know that I am also 10 pounds lighter going into this year’s marathon than my  2006 Boston run. Of course I am also 10 years older too and age does play a factor. I have experienced a slight slow down of my training runs this year.

So what started out as a goal finish time of 3:40 has been ratcheted down to a 3:50 mark. But in the end, if I simply finish and have a fun time doing so in the process then that will make all the work worth it. Regardless of my experience I will return to continue to RUN HAPPY 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and check back next week for the results!

Coach Lee

10 Years Later!

Boston 2006 start line
The Starting Line 2006

Just when you think you know the major events you have control over in your life, things change!  In 2006 I ran the Boston Marathon for my first time.  It was the most difficult experience I had ever experienced in my life, ever, even until this day.  I remember attempting to run (or rather a fast walk) up Heartbreak Hill thinking “I am NEVER going to run another marathon”.   Well, in the intervening years I have run 6 more marathons in venues such as Detroit Traverse City, New York City, Honolulu, and winning my age division in Raleigh.  All along the way I have never had any desire whatsoever to return to run the Boston Marathon again!  That is until a few weak moments last September.Boston 2006 pre

So what changed? Well, to start, it helps to understand what my running life and career were like 10 years ago.  2006 was my 20th year of business as owning my own architectural practice. I had survived a challenging market conditions for the past few years. I had earlier decided to diversify my practice and take on a new project and client type. What I initially thought to be an awesome project for nice people turned out to be the project from Architect’s Hell.  No need to go into details but I have never experienced such a stressful condition in my entire lifetime.  The stress was heightened in April of 2006 as the project was eventually nearing completion. Needless to say, my training to run Boston was greatly impacted. With minimal and inconsistent training it was no wonder I had a terrible race experience. I was also training on my own. I had no peer support. Most of my running buddies no longer ran. Training is much easier if you are able to train with some level of regular support, especially someone to run with you on long runs.

Well, it was 20 months later and if you must go to Hawaii you might as well run another marathon right?  We actually returned to Hawaii for our wedding anniversary and we had not been to Hawaii since our honeymoon 30 years ago. However as a condition to return to paradise I insisted on running the Honolulu Marathon. What another dumb idea. My two worse marathons ever, back to back!  I had joined a marathon training group in my area but about half way through the program the group more or less disintegrated. I was fortunate enough to drop-in to a neighboring training group in nearby Ann Arbor.  Little did I know at the time that my running life had just taken perhaps the most significant change in my entire career, at least as an adult runner.

The summer of 2008 I joined the Running Fit 501 training group in Ann Arbor. The group was led by a very experienced and extremely dedicated Coach, Coach Gina. It was a large group and a very easy group to find someone of like capabilities as well as challenge you as a runner.  I met a number of awesome people many of who I still remain in contact and often still run and train with, especially during the winter months.  What resulted from this experience was what remains today as my all-time best marathon experience, New York City Marathon.  I need to post a separate story about my NY experience, but the short version is that I told Coach Gina of my goal to run a 3:30 marathon. She cautioned me that I should be happy to run a 3:40 marathon as NYC course is a very tough course. Then 4 weeks prior to running the New York City Marathon I find myself racing along side of 4 time Boston and NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers!  Bill Rogers personally offered me advice on how to race NY!  Bottom line, I ran 3 hours, 29 min, 30 secs!

The point is that I was now hooked to run and race competitively once again thanks hugely to the Running Fit 501 training program. The next year I returned to the more local program in Novi/Northville due in large part to the new coaches. Coach Doug and Coach Suzi. They have since reached out allowed me to assist the program, as an assistant coach with this very popular and successful training program.  I thought that nothing could beat my marathon experience in New York so I had no further plans to run another marathon ever again. That is until three years later!

For several years I had enjoyed racing in Raleigh NC while visiting my daughter Bridgett. The City of Oaks Half Marathon in early November (actually the same day as the NYC Marathon) became a regular venue on my racing schedule. I also did very well in this race too!  I have always managed to finish in the top 3 in my age division including one win!  Then came 2011. I can’t really remember why, but I decided to run the full marathon this year. I was lured by the fact that most of the last half of the marathon route was through a very hilly and challenging Umstead State Park. i think between miles 13 and 23 runners needed to climb at least 500 total feet! Another long story short, I won my age division will only 33 days before I advanced to an older age group!  So THIS was to be my LAST marathon!  Why not retire from marathoning after winning a major marathon?

So I was a retired marathoner, finally!  Well that lasted all of another 3 years. In 2014 my youngest daughter Alexis had become a runner. (another long story and separate post) We decided it would be fun to run the Chicago Marathon.  That year most runners needed to gain entry to the Chicago Marathon by a lottery selection. We had each been selected by lottery (luck us) and the training began. Alexis  became injured late in her training and was not able to run the marathon. I had managed to stay healthy and had a good training season. I ran Chicago very well, well at least for the first 18 miles or so, the my “wheels fell off”.  I hit the proverbial wall that is often reported. I did not run a smart race. It was my own fault.

I was determined to get my revenge only 7 months later by running the Bayshore Marathon (Traverse City MI) in late May. My training was good, but again, I lost my wheels after mile 18 or so again. Both Chicago and Bayshore are known as fast courses primarily as they are defined as mostly flat courses. I train on hilly routes. I was not accustomed to flat courses or for the mental aspect too.  Regardless, in Chicago and Bayshore, I had run sufficiently fast enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon in 2016 with nearly 9 minutes to spare each time. Nice, but I was not planning to run Boston again.

So why Boston now?  A combination of reasons I suppose. First there is the idea that I would like to pass-on my major marathon medals to each of my three grandchildren. Not so much to encourage them to run, although that would be great, but more to help them each to understand the importance of establishing personal goals, self discipline, a?nd achievement in whatever they elect to do in their lives. Wouldn’t if be great to be able to pass a separate Boston medal to each child?  I could have my  second Boston medal this April and hopefully find a way to run again in 2017?

Another compelling reason is our training group. Each season since 2008 our training group has been sending several runners to Boston.  The Boston Marathon registration period is open for only a handful of days each September. Not all who qualify are actually able to gain entry to compete in Boston. The registration process favors runners who exceed the basic qualifying time based on one’s gender and age. Our group was set to send nearly 20 eligible runners who had trained with us for one season or another. More than many other recent years I also have the resources and job situation that will enable me to travel to Boston.  So only the day before it was my turn to register to enter, I decided to do so. A day or two later my entry was confirmed and my next challenge was to determine the travel arrangements. Thanks to the help of my training buds, that was not difficult at all.

Boston 2017? Not sure if I will enter 2017 or not at this time but thanks to my Detroit Marathon experience this past October, I have qualified with nearly 19 minutes to spare, to compete in Boston again in 2017.  Check back next September to see what my decision will be.

Boston 2006 fin
Finally!  The Finish Line 2006

Thanks for taking the time to read this and Run Happy 🙂

PS:  We were also informed recently that we will become grandparents for the fourth time in August!  So…. Boston 2018???  . . . . Stay tuned 🙂

Lee

 

 

2016 The Year Ahead

This blog reflects my world of architecture and my running experience. Accordingly, I have goals and intentions in each of these areas. This post will focus on my running life for the year ahead.

Bostonmarathonlogo

My plans for the 2016 running year actually became quite defined back in September of 2015. Even though I had qualified twice in the past 12 months to compete in the 2016 Boston Marathon, I really did not give running Boston in 2016 until only a day or two prior to the application process.  I ran Boston in 2006 and had always felt once was enough, until September.

The chance to return to avenge my previous poor experience in Bean Town and to do so with about 16 others from our training group were significant influences in my decision process. However, the kicker was the opportunity to earn my second Boston finisher’s medal and pass two medals onto two of my three grandchildren.  For my third grandchild, I have thoughts of running again in 2017. I have already more than qualified for 2017 and official acceptance from the Boston Athletic Association should not be a problem.  It does not hurt that I also will move into a new age group if I run in 2017!  So in the end, three finisher’s medals for three grand kids.  Should a fourth or more grand kids show up I guess I will need to qualify again!

The other significant item that occurred in late September was my official notice from The Crim Foundation that I had completed 29 Crim 10 mile races thus qualifying me to be one of about a dozen other runners who will join the prestigious 30 Year Club.  As a member of this group I will be provided special recognition and receive a 15 minute head start  ahead of the elites.  My goal is to make it to the Bradley Hills (about 4.8 mile mark) ahead of the Kenyans and other elites.  This will also be the 40th anniversary of the Crim and no doubt there will be special events leading up to Crim Race day.

Other races will include a return to the Tobacco Road Marathon in Carey NC in mid-March. This will be a tune-up race for Boston but I also believe I can be a strong contender to win my age group. I have also competed in all of The Brooksie Way Half Marathons. In September 2016 I will compete in this race for the ninth time. The difference this year is that it will be a focus or destination race for me. In past years it has primarily been a training race for me.

Finally, I look forward to bringing the world of running to many new people I already know and others I have yet to meet this year.  This will be done via my workplace and the Running Fit 501 training program where I enjoy helping others as a coach.

Oops!  Correction, this is the final goal, I resolve to visit this blog on a much more regular basis (weekly?) this year as I attempt to share by preparations for running in the most prestigious marathons in the world, the 120th Boston Marathon.

Please sign-up to receive notices of my posts and I look forward to your feedback.  Thanks for reading and continue to Run Happy 🙂

Coach Lee